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Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Patterson receives Outstanding Faculty Award

  • auv_class.jpg
    From L: Graduate students Lorraine Brasseur, Justin Vandever, Rob Condon, and Jarrell Smith pose with Professor Mark Patterson and classmate Taiping Wong before launching Fetch from the Yorktown waterfront.
    Photo by David Malmquist.
  • fetch_in_water.jpg
    VIMS graduate student Lawrence Carpenter prepares the autonomous underwater vehicle Fetch for a research mission in the Florida Keys.
  • penguins_auv.jpg
    A trio of chinstrap penguins investigate the robotic vehicle Fetch while it awaits deployment from the rocky shore of Livingston Island, South Shetland Islands, Antarctica.
    Photo by Dr. Mark Patterson.
  • fetch_pool.jpg
    Dr. Mark Patterson performs trials with the robotic vehicle Fetch to find out what blue crabs and jellyfish look like on sonar. Student assistant David James lends a hand.
    Photo by David Malmquist.

Dr. Mark Patterson, a professor in the College of William and Mary's School of Marine Science at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, has received the state's highest honor for professors from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).

The award recognizes the finest among Virginia's college faculty for their demonstrated excellence in teaching, research, and public service.

Patterson also received the OFA's sole "Teaching with Technology" award this year. According to SCHEV, the award is given to a professor with a "record of superior accomplishment in the use of innovative educational/instructional technologies" for instruction.

Patterson is accomplished both as a teacher and a scholar. An underwater explorer, inventor, and entrepreneur, Patterson has served VIMS and William & Mary for 16 years.

Patterson says he was "very honored to be recognized by the selection committee for my research and teaching using technology I helped create, Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs)."

"It's been a privilege to work with W&M students who energetically embrace new tools like AUVs," he adds. "They put them to uses I never would have thought possible."

Professor Mark PattersonAn expert in both biology and electronics, Patterson leads an internationally renowned laboratory on autonomous systems at VIMS, where he developed one of the world's first free-swimming robots—an AUV named Fetch. This "taxicab for sensors," as Patterson calls it, is helping to revolutionize oceanography—and to defend our nation's ports.

Patterson involves students in all aspects of AUV development and research, including involvement in cutting-edge studies of the health of marine ecosystems from Chesapeake Bay to Antarctica. A course that Patterson premiered at VIMS in 2005—Ocean Observing Systems: Technology and Applications—is one of only a handful of such courses currently offered in the U.S. It gives VIMS graduate students an exceptional hands-on opportunity to learn about both mobile sensors like Fetch and fixed data buoys like those that constitute the Virginia Coastal and Estuarine Observing System (VECOS).

An aquanaut with 79 days spent living underwater, Patterson has used underwater robots as a teaching tool for K-12 education, and he continually seeks out new methods and technologies to improve his teaching—from YouTube videos and webinars to the remote control of his robots over the internet.

Patterson often has undergraduates and high school students learning in his lab, and he has served as a mentor to numerous graduate students. In addition to his work at VIMS, Patterson has been heavily involved in economic development efforts in Hampton Roads. These efforts led to him being invited to witness the signing of a 2009 state bill to help fund research and development of unmanned systems in Virginia's colleges and universities.

Patterson has written 37 peer-reviewed papers, earned two U.S. patents, won several other academic awards, and received $2.4 million in extramural funding to date. In 2008, he received the Lockheed Martin Award, one of the highest honors in the field of Ocean Science & Engineering, for his sustained creativity in the field of underwater robots.

VIMS Dean and Director John Wells says the award "is extremely well deserved." "Mark embodies the entrepreneurial spirit that we encourage at VIMS," says Wells. "His use of technology in teaching has been exemplary, as has his use of technology to provide solutions to the challenges facing marine scientists and marine resources."

Paul Marcus, Haynes Professor of Law at W&M, was another recipient of this year's SCHEV Outstanding Faculty Award. Patterson and Marcus were among only 12 professors out of 117 applicants statewide to receive the Commonwealth's highest award for professors.

"This is great news," said William & Mary President Taylor Reveley. "William & Mary has a powerful tradition of being home to Outstanding Faculty Award winners. This is because our faculty is compellingly good, as Paul and Mark make so clear. We are very proud of both of them."

Patterson joins 4 other VIMS faculty members in receipt of the SCHEV Outstanding Faculty Award. Previous VIMS recipients include professors Carl Friedrichs (2008), John Graves (2004), Linda Schaffner (2003), and Jack Musick (2001).

Including this year's awardees, 35 William & Mary professors have received the honor since the awards' inception in 1987, more than any other university in the state. This year's awardees will be introduced on the floor of the Virginia General Assembly before receiving their awards during a luncheon ceremony on February 18.